Trump Asserts Executive Privilege Over Citizenship Question in Census

Thursday, June 13, 2019
By Paul Martin

by Steve Byas
Thursday, 13 June 2019

“It is disappointing that you have rejected the Department of Commerce’s request to delay the vote of the Committee on Oversight and Reform on a contempt finding against the Secretary this morning,” Charles Rathburn, assistant secretary for legislative and intergovernmental affairs at the Department of Commerce, said in a letter delivered to the Oversight Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday morning.

Rathburn advised House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) that President Donald Trump “has asserted executive privilege over the specific subset of the documents identified by the Committee in its June 3, 2019 letter — documents that are clearly protected from disclosure by the deliberative process, attorney-client communications, or attorney work product components of executive privilege.”

The dispute has emerged over materials related to the addition of a question about citizenship status to the 2020 federal census. The census is specifically required in the Constitution of the United States for the purpose of determining the population of the United States, and in each state, respectively. This data is then used to allocate how many members a state is entitled to send to the House of Representatives.

Nothing is said, however, in the Constitution whether the federal government can ask additional questions in the course of its decennial survey. From the first census under the authority of the Constitution in 1790, census-takers have been directed by government authorities to make other inquiries. By 1850, the government asked for the names and ages of all persons in the household — not just the “head of household.”

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